The trial of Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry, with its titillating mixture of sex, lies, and videotape, not only attracted worldwide attention, but gave rise to more serious questions—which are partially addressed here by Voice of America's Agronsky. Agronsky covers the sting operation that trapped Barry; Barry's life and career up to that time; and the ensuing trial. Born in Mississippi, Barry was five when his mother moved the family to Memphis; there, he was studying for his doctorate in chemistry when he got involved in the civil-rights struggle. He abandoned his studies, and was sent to Washington in 1965 by SNCC to open its first urban effort in social reform. The city was still segregated, in fact if not in law, and Barry learned how to manipulate the system to break down racial barriers and to gain advantages for his followers and himself. He attained a dominance sufficient not only to make him mayor in 1978 but to protect him from the consequences of a series of scandals involving inveterate womanizing, the corruption of those close to him, and flagrant drug use. The judge who presided over Barry's trial later commented that he had ``never seen a stronger government case'' than the one ultimately presented to the jury, but it was insufficient to convict Barry on more than one misdemeanor charge. Agronsky gives a careful, sober, and balanced account of Barry's decline and fall, and of a manipulation of the politics of race as shameless as that of the Bilbos in the Mississippi from which Barry came—but he does not explore the profound political cleavages evident in the result of Barry's trial.
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